Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.
To be immediately, within the first two minutes of watching, viscerally grabbed by something so intriguing and fascinating is a rare thing. It’s only ever happened to me three times. Once when I saw the opening scene of The Seven Samurai, the second when I saw the opening of the 2012 movie Dredd, and the third time when I saw the pre-credit sequence of the first episode of Game of Thrones.
A squad of soldiers ride horses in a tunnel and emerge from a giant wall made of ice. As they scout for enemies they come across the site of a massacre. Who are these men in black? Why is there a giant wall of ice, and who massacred the villagers? From that moment on I didn’t need any more convincing that this was a show for me.
The first season of Game of Thrones had a near impossible task. It had to introduce audiences around the world to a story so vast it spanned two continents, several different geographic regions, a variety of families, different cultures, religions, and military orders, all the while spinning a fascinating story full of lust, intrigue, death, family, violence, politics, and just a hint of magic. The now-iconic opening sequence of mechanical gears giving rise to various cities and castles demonstrates this is a story about the complexity of ruling and the machinations of power, and its core is the family unit.
One of the most fascinating things about the story was how children are thrust into an unforgiving adult world right away. In the Potter series, the Narnia series, or even the grown but nonetheless meeker Hobbits from Tolkien, the small folk in fantasy were never really fodder for death or true violence. All that seemed to change in the first few hours of Thrones as children get killed without a second thought.
Ebert & Roper used to criticize using kids as an empty and unfulfilling way of showing audiences danger because, after all, in the movies, kids never die. Suddenly GoT comes along and without a moment’s pause shows audiences this world is dangerous, unforgiving, and merciless. Anyone can die, especially the young and innocent. Suddenly all the traditional rules about mainstream fiction have changed.
In retrospect the first season of Thrones served more as a pilot for the entire series. We hear promises of a Targaryen return to power, promises of Northern Independence, disturbing yet apocryphal musings about dead men wreaking havoc north of the Wall, and beginnings of a civil war that would play out in big ways in the years to come. Many of the key players would have their humble beginnings here, and though no large and epic set pieces would take place during S1 it nonetheless was a masterful adaptation of GRRM’s first book. The series would eventually grow exponentially larger, bigger, and more epic in the subsequent years. S1 was an outstanding yet humble opening act.
As if you didn’t know, Season One of Game of Thrones is available with your HBO Go subscription. You can also stream it from your favorite service.